Masters in Education – Research?

 

There has been much research into the minds of language learners, both native and non-native speakers. Researchers have and continue to delve into learners’ minds and behaviour in acquiring language competencies. Some aspects of language through research have confirmed many questions such as how children learn a language, and that children will almost always fully acquire their first language, whereas second language learners rarely will ever attain full fluency and will indefinitely continue with errors, some that will unlikely be corrected in their lifetime.

Embarking on the masters course in Education I have been embattling ideas to propose a research. Language has always been a fascination and of great interest to me. One proposed idea I wish to pursue is skills in writing and speaking. I currently teach level 1 ESOL learners. All show fluency in speaking, despite this, their writing skills lack much and when compared to their speaking ability it shows much to be desired. As many language practitioners know we acquire speaking skills by default, a skill of survival to communicate with the human race and to ‘live’. Writing however, does not begin even for natives till school, around the age of 5 or 6 or in some countries even older. Native speakers are not exempt from the complexities and challenges of writing. The UK government has now made it mandatory for education up until the age of 18. Lessons always must embed literacy and numeracy in every instance regardless of the subject. Literacy has become an immediate desire for both learners, educational institutions and employers.

Learners who never attain a good understanding and skills in writing are effectively robbed of the ability to express themselves, comprehend and share information. Those who speak do so at the moment in time and it is much a played out event. With writing we can delve deeper into thoughts, feelings and experiences. We should all as teachers make writing an integral part of the class. As learners gain new skills there will be continuous errors formed which language teachers should prioritise for correction. I am currently reading upon past and current research into students’ writing speaking, why some students speak fluently but cannot write well and vice versa. What barriers are there stopping learners from writing effectively? All these questions are interesting and require further research.

 

Make the classroom come alive!

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I had the opportunity to attend a CPD session (conference) with Bradford College and HAYs education. The conference titled, ‘ 28 Ways to Bring Your Classroom to Life’ explored topics of engagement, behaviour, literacy and differentiation. Sometimes we as teachers are at odds with methods and strategies to excite, engage and encourage students to learn. Anyone knows to execute excitement and draw attention from a friend, child or student is no easy task. Within the classroom, where teachers may be grappling with up to 25-30 students, each one of those students count, and their attention, retention and success in learning is reliant upon the teacher’s strategy, activities and methods he/she employs.

Within my classroom my students come from mixed backgrounds and cultures, something that works with one student may not work with another. In order to succeed one has to strike a balance. Differentiation was one aspect explored. If a student is disengaged, pair him/her up with one who is. The enthusiasm may then be shared and passed on to others less inclined to learn.

Striking a balance between students’ behaviour was also explored. We teachers need to understand that we must not escalate students’ bad behaviour -rather always keeping situations under control such as through non-verbal cues and the silent- insist and persist method.

Literacy was given an important role within the conference, through the saying, ‘Every teacher is a literacy teacher.’ Every teacher regardless of the subject being taught must embed the literacy skills within their teaching. Good reading, writing and speaking skills are fundamental aspects in gaining employment and success in life – something teachers must promote in their classroom from the onset.

After the conference, I developed some strategy with my ESOL students. At the end of the class rather than students disappear as they wish I got them to stand behing their chairs and clear their tables. One – by – one I asked a question they had to answer to leave, the question was related to the topic of the lesson such as give me the past tense of go. They quite enjoyed it, although there were a few giggles, it worked fine and deployed in the students a sense of discipline and morale.

Download ideas: 24 ways to bring your classroom to life download  2016-10-16-14-22

Building Alliances

allaince

After a refreshing two-week break my students returned, and were happy to be back, somewhat ready to learn. Two weeks, although not too long, is long enough that it may disengage students’ learning or at the very least cause them difficulty to retract back into the mode of learning. Activities, of which there are many, show how teachers can get their students cognitively reengaged. The activity I implemented was quite simple but effective. I gave each student a post-it-note and asked them to write one word describing their two-week holiday – it could be any word, a noun, adjective, verb etc and they were not to show it anyone else. Students then stuck the word anywhere in the room. Students then picked another student’s note and paired. Each student discussed what their word meant, elaborating on its context and meaning. There were some interesting words – fire, cat and some mundane ones, not bad (two words but I let the student off) and fun. The activity was not just to reengage students but to rebuild rapport between students. When students enter a new classroom, they immediately try to find someone who matches their ‘profile’, this could be a student with the same first language (L1), age or nationality. Over the years I have seen students hesitant to explore unalike encounters, it could be worry, presuppositions of different people or cultures that may hinder bonding, or just apprehension. Although sad to say, race can also play an issue, though this aspect is harder to spot. Sometimes views of different nationalities are fomented, and my role is to make sure that boundaries are not crossed when students race, religion, sex or appearance is negatively portrayed ( I have dealt with at least two students’ negative remarks about one ethnic group). I always endeavor to promote diversity and inclusivity through the activities I implement and learning strategies.

The ESOL classroom is usually a cultural melting pot, much like The United Nations, without the high end security, and sophistication. Culture in ESOL classrooms and relationships and its effect on learning has not been explored as deeply as other aspects within second language acquisition. What ‘lies under the surface’ of learning is very much bound by the relationships students form. After all the alliances we hold very much shape our views and attitudes. As the saying goes you can choose you friends but you can’t choose family. This choice – rather than benefit – could hinder students’ learning, especially outside the classroom where practice of English is very limited, as interaction with native speakers is constrained by the alliances students form. Within the classroom I can at least control the flow of information – how and with whom.

Haliday, gives a great quote on teachers’ attempt in getting students to work together,

“whenever a teacher attempts to organise a grouping within the class for the transactional purpose of learning, he or she Immediately Interferes with a powerful existing milieu” [HALIDAY 1994 p65].

And it is this powerful existing milieu that myself and teachers not just in ESOL but any educational classroom setting are confronted with. As educators we must stick to our morals and duties to include all and promote diversity, respect and cohesion. I will continue to do so, whether students are able to acquire its importance once they have left the classroom is much within their control and liberty.

 

 

Halliday, M. A. K. (1993). The Act of meaning. In 3. Alatis (ed. ), Language, communication and social meaning  Washington, D. C.: Georgetown University Press.

A Martyr to all who knew her

Jo Cox Memorial - 12

Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen West Yorkshire, paid the ultimate price last week – her life. Such was the shock of her murder that leaders from afar as well as home, from  all spectrums paid their tributes to a woman who put her community first, ready and willing to do anything to bring people together. It was a sad day, that a woman who many had not heard of – a charity worker, mother, MP and activist of rights for all – could die in such a brutal way, and as some now believe for her beliefs. The world which Jo sought was one in which all, regardless of religion, race or culture could live in harmony. In her own words talking of her own constituency, she said, “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

As a teacher, our role is even more powerful and a necessary to eradicate the evil that killed Jo. We have to educate our young, make them citizens worthy of praise not contempt. Within classrooms let debate run, let views be heard, let one another respond within reason, respecting each other, valuing our beliefs, and British values of democracy and freedom. We in Europe have seen how division, hate and using notions such as ‘us’ and ‘them’ through propaganda has led to wars. We have moved on – the world no longer revolves around us, it is we who revolve around it. Tomorrow will be a defining moment in British History, when Britons go to the polls to vote, either to remain in the EU or leave. Whichever way  the vote goes, it will have a long lasting effect for generations to come. I hope people vote wisely, and not with emotion.

 

Who are ESOL teachers accountable to?

Teachers within their own subject specialism, in addition to their teaching, carry other vital responsibilities that assist in the functioning of the educational body. English to Speakers of others Languages (ESOL) teachers have a unique role, one that is by no means an easy one, which is to assist in the development and assimilation of new arrivals, refugees and others seeking improvement in English.

There has been cut backs in ESOL funding, thus accountability is even more of a hot topic. As ESOL teachers, we are accountable for our actions, teachings, our classroom and most of all the students themselves. Students’ success and improvement in language relies heavily on the teacher’s strong subject knowledge, learning and teaching techniques and the institution’s support and policies. Moving beyond the classroom other bodies play their vital roles, such as the governmental departments in ESOL this is usually The Home Office and BIS. Recently the government deployed a strategy of taking twenty thousand Syrian refugees over 5 years, Bradford has received nearly 200 and schemes such as Vulnerable persons and gateway protection are allocated to associations and councils who bid and show interest. Schemes can run for 2 years or more depending on contracts. Teachers are therefore most likely at the whim of government actions and decisions, not just in community education but also mainstream colleges. Funding is another issue, again reliant from governmental organisation which as stated has been cut drastically in the last two years resulting in job losses.

I as an ESOL teacher, and like most other teachers in other fields, am responsible for my actions, from equality and diversity, treating everyone equally, empathising, and maintaining professional boundaries. With ESOL learners this is a hard task as all have different behaviours and perceptions and cultures. I am accountable to my line manager, and course leader and this can be from the mundane, filling in registers to more complex tasks such as submitting test results, referrals and course/curriculum issues.

ESOL teachers’ accountability unlike other roles goes beyond the classroom in terms of teaching and learning. Although I may see my students as learners, they are in fact members of a society who are and have been through difficult times, such as war and loss. I am therefore accountable to the society in which I work, as the learners’ assimilation is after all practising language within societal realms.

Levit R et al (2008, p8) in her report states: In the literature five types of accountability are generally recognised: organisational, political, legal, professional and moral/ethical. Each type of accountability has its own methods of working. Organisational accountability works through the superior/subordinate relationships that define actors’ authority and responsibility; political accountability relies on democratic institutions and processes to hold actors to account. Legal accountability works though the courts and other judicial institutions to protect rights and redress wrongs. Professional accountability is promulgated through codes of conduct or practice and systems of regulation designed and operated by peers. Moral or ethical accountability relies on the internalised values to which actors voluntarily adhere.

Accountability is by no means an easy process, nor can it seem accepting as one crack can lead to total breakdown; its complexity can be seen from the above statement regarding the vast array of powers that hold teachers, managers and whole organisations together. Only by working with each other, having rigorous policies, and strong communications within all parameters will enable institutions to provide the service effectively without due hindrance.

 

Levitt, R., Janta, B. and Wegrich, K. (2008) Accountability of teachers, literature review. Available at: http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/14020/1/1009_Accountability_of_teachers_Literature_review.pdf (Accessed: 1 June 2016).

Thank You

 

Thank you card

 

Final Reflection of year.

Numbers in text indicate reference to The Professional Standards, Education and Training Foundation. Appendix 1

 

ESOL and Placement.

On this sunny day as the sun beams down, and I am nearing the end of the course – after a gruelling 10 months – It is a sigh of relief coming to the end, but also tinged with some sadness, having met great people, staff and peers. The course has been a huge challenge to say the least and at times very draining.  The year started off with a two-week introduction of what was to be expected, the process and an opportunity to get to know everyone and the college. During my placement I was able to secure employment one of the great highlights of my course was to work directly in my subject specialism ESOL, and teaching refugees for the first time.  Although I had some experience behind me, the ESOL aspect within my career was lacking. Although, EFL and TEFL are similar, the challenges and upheavals of teaching ESOL learners was very different. Issues such as dealing with traumatised individuals, students with lack of motivation, culture clashes, attendance, single mothers, and integration. These issues have by far been hard to deal with, and some I have not experienced in dealing with before (1. 2 and 5). With the help of my mentor (well experienced in ESOL), colleagues, tutors and an excellent manager, as well as through observations, feedback and guidance (5 and 6) I have truly come out the other end has a well-rounded, more experienced ESOL teacher and Language Practitioner. This has also shown me the power of working together, as they say, ‘better together’ and without their support I could not have made it through. I started my placement with much confidence, believing that the skills attained from my previous jobs and qualifications would suffice. However, I have learnt that whatever experience one holds, there will always be room for development. Teachers cannot predict what outcomes, both negative and positive, they will face, and it is not until one experiences different dilemmas and challenges, is one able to put into  course  a plan of action and deal with it. During my teaching I have also learnt about government organisations in relation to ESOL provision and funding, and how some organisations are strongly dependent on the government and stakeholders for such services. The ESOL provision at work, provides a crucial service to the community, in addition to literacy and dealing with vulnerable people, locked in alcohol and drug issues. (19, 20)

Lesson observations and feedback reignited the importance of collaborating with others, especially more experienced teachers. It also made me think more about teaching, how and why I do certain things, such as asking questions for feedback, assessing students, developing communicative skills. Sometimes taking our own perspective on our teaching is not enough, others’ eyes and ears, assist in the development of teaching and quality and developing professional practice. ( 4, 10, 12 and 6). I will without doubt keep hold of all my reflections, feedbacks, and lesson plans. I will revisit them in a few months to see how I have improved, and take account of aspects raised in my training.

 

Academia         (2,3,4,7,8,9 and 12)

Writing assignments was always going to be a substantial part of the course. Of course to be able to explain language learning, theories from Maslow to Chomsky, is an important aspect of teacher training and development. Especially in language learning, where there continues to be great interest in research surrounding second language acquisition.  The assignments’ aims, questions and outcomes have enabled me to critically analyse, dissect and put forward my own experiences/expectations academically. I am very proud of the results I have reached, (distinctions and merits) in the assignments, and my strengths in being able to write, express opinions and argue concepts was well received, hence excellent results. I have had the opportunity to read vital books and texts in relation to teaching and language learning. One book which I found very interesting was Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Hattie on Visible Learning and Chomsky’s language theories. The assignments have enabled me to challenge my own beliefs and practices through engaging with other’s views whether it be a theory or research project. One such project I found quite surprising and at times shocking, was the research paper on views people have on refugees in The Yorkshire and Humber, and the obstacles they face in learning language and seeking to integrate. Learning theories was an exceptional module, where behaviorism and cognitive theories explained some of the qualms I had about why some language students acquire language well and others not. I was then able to through researching and reading upon such theories relate it to my teaching, and embed it in my own practice. Ideas such as Vygotsky’s, scaffolding and The Zone of Proximal development explained why some of my students were not able to complete ‘extra challenging tasks’. I have attained a very well understanding of education, language and learning through my assignments, and will continue to keep abreast of knowledge in my subject area/specialism.

 

CPD and final summary (4,5,7,14,15,18,19 and 20)

 

On completion of the course, the journey does not end here, rather it is the beginning. Having completed the required essentials (in order to be QTLS) and fulfilled the standards expected I can now implement the past year’s skills learned and develop further  in my teaching. The importance of keeping up to date with new rules, teaching methods, technology and professionalism in a teaching career – CPD can and does help. I recently attended a CPD session with Cambridge English in London, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Aspects of SLA and learning were fomented, as well as new techniques and technology, which could be used to enhance learning. Sessions also included assessment methods online both summative and formative, and Cambridge is also developing paperless exams, which can be done online.

 

I am very grateful to all who have been very supportive during my course. Friends, family, colleagues, mentor, tutors, lecturers and of course caffeine . I will continue to use my blog to update on the progress of my career and teaching.

 

THANK YOU

 

SAAD AJMAL

Appendix 1

Professional Standards

As a professional teacher or trainer you should demonstrate

commitment to the following in your professional practice.

Professional values and attributes

Develop your own judgement of what works and does not work in your teaching and training

1 Reflect on what works best in your teaching and learning to meet the diverse needs

of learners

2 Evaluate and challenge your practice, values and beliefs

3 Inspire, motivate and raise aspirations of learners through your enthusiasm and knowledge

4 Be creative and innovative in selecting and adapting strategies to help learners to learn

5 Value and promote social and cultural diversity, equality of opportunity and inclusion

6 Build positive and collaborative relationships with colleagues and learners

Professional knowledge and understanding

Develop deep and critically informed knowledge and understanding in theory and practice

7 Maintain and update knowledge of your subject and/or vocational area

8 Maintain and update your knowledge of educational research to develop evidence-based practice

9 Apply theoretical understanding of effective practice in teaching, learning and assessment

drawing on research and other evidence

10 Evaluate your practice with others and assess its impact on learning

11 Manage and promote positive learner behaviour

12 Understand the teaching and professional role and your responsibilities

Professional skills

Develop your expertise and skills to ensure the best outcomes for learners

13 Motivate and inspire learners to promote achievement and develop their skills to enable

progression

14 Plan and deliver effective learning programmes for diverse groups or individuals in a safe

and inclusive environment

15 Promote the benefits of technology and support learners in its use

16 Address the mathematics and English needs of learners and work creatively to overcome

individual barriers to learning

17 Enable learners to share responsibility for their own learning and assessment, setting goals

that stretch and challenge

18 Apply appropriate and fair methods of assessment and provide constructive and timely

feedback to support progression and achievement

19 Maintain and update your teaching and training expertise and vocational skills through

collaboration with employers

20 Contribute to organisational development and quality improvement through collaboration

Cambridge English Teacher- London Seminar

I was invited – being a member – to the Cambridge English Teacher Seminar in London. Cambridge English (www.cambridgeenglish.org). Cambridge English according to its ethos, ‘Cambridge English is a unique approach to teaching, learning and assessing English. It combines the experience and expertise of Cambridge English Language Assessment and Cambridge University Press.’.

The seminar was a great insight into new methods of teaching language through technology. As well as meeting and networking with other teachers it was an opportunity to discuss current issues and challenges we language teachers face. There were some common issues especially those that work in schools, one raised the issue of paperwork, and the pressures of exams to pass students, others more positive, gave insight into the vast array of students they meet, which is what makes teaching languages unique.

The seminar provided great links, resources and of course freebies! Some of the information was very new to me, such as a new concept developed by Cambridge English, where students can practise their writing skills, the computer then automatically checks their work, highlighting the errors so they can correct. It also shows the student their approximate level according to the CEFR scale. This new technology is fascinating and provides a quick and accurate response. Although in the initial stages, and free (at the moment) I will definitely be trialing it out with my students.

Seminars included the new Cambridge English Framework http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/teaching-english/cambridge-english-teaching-framework/. This concept which encompasses stages such as, learning and the learner, teaching, learning and assessment as well as proffesinal development. It enables you to use the framework, and see where you are in your development – and think about where you want to go next. Using the tracker on their website, through a series of questions the results with show the teacher where they are at each category.

The practical teaching tips and what makes a good test! were very informative seminars that provided us with information on effectively using learning and technology to enhance student involvement. The, what makes a good test, showcased examples of good formative and summative assessments and how to effectively handle both with language students, especially at a time when language exams are being more and more in demand.

I have posted some links below to show some of the tools discussed for use during the seminar, some I will definitely try out. Most are easy to use and implement. I am glad I was able to participate in the event and it does show that CPD, is a vital aspect of developing in one’s career whether experienced or a novice.

http://www.kahoot.it

http://www.thinglink.com    make your own picture dictionaries.

http://www.Padlet.com

http://www.draw.io     make stories, mind maps and collaboration

http://www.riddle.com     used for polls, quizzes

http://www.diigo.com       free annotation tool

http://www.visme.com    for flashy presentations

http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/learning-english/free-resources/write-and-improve/    This one was the big one for me, write and improve, I will try it myself first and get my Level 1 (B2) students to use it.

Saad Ajmal_Certificate of Attendance